Golf Hall of Fame: Harding, Williams-Hoak, LaFontaine and Erickson Inducted

BIG RAPIDS – A notable foursome joined the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame Saturday night.

Tom Harding of South Lyon, a winning tour professional and PGA instructor, Debbie Williams-Hoak of Saline, a former LPGA player and award-winning coach, Gordon LaFontaine of Houghton Lake, executive director emeritus of the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation (MTF) and groundbreaking fundraiser, and the late Bud Erickson of West Bloomfield, a former executive director of the LPGA and the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM), were inducted at Ferris State University’s Katke Golf Club.

“I still can’t believe I was included,” said Williams-Hoak. “What an incredible honor. I’m so humbled by this.”    LaFontaine called his life in golf service an incredible journey. “In the grass cutting business, I met some of the greatest people in the world,” he said. Harding cited the support of his wife Peggy, her daughter Esther and his three daughters Caroline, Priscilla and Elizabeth, who in 2019 will all be part of the Michigan State women’s golf program. “We are a family that plays golf,” he said. “This is a big deal to us.” Jon Erickson, Bud’s son, said their father loved the social aspect of golf. “I always said he wasn’t the life of the party, but he was the guy next to the guy who was life of the party,” he said.    Erickson, who died last August at the age of 94, was an Army Air Corps veteran and graduate of Michigan State University who before his career in golf was a public relations director and assistant general manager for the Detroit Lions when they won three NFL Championships in the 1950s. In golf he was executive director of the LPGA from 1970-75 credited with adding tournaments and purses and was executive director of the GAM from 1980-84. He also served as tournament director for Oakland Hills Country Club as host site of the 1979 PGA Championship, the 1981 U.S. Senior Open, the 1985 U.S. Open and the 1991 U.S. Senior Open. Harding, 53 and a teaching professional at Kendall Academy of Golf in Ypsilanti, played on the Asian, Australian and tours and won the Canadian PGA Championship in 1991. After his tour career, the Michigan State graduate and Spartan golfer was twice the Michigan PGA Player of the Year and won four Michigan PGA Section major titles including the 1997 Michigan PGA Professional Championship. He has been at Kendall Academy since 2004 where he has been named one of Golf Digest’s Top 15 Instructors in Michigan five times since 2011. Williams-Hoak, 58 and golf academy director at Brookside Golf Club in Saline, was an All-America track and field athlete in javelin at the University of Michigan before taking up golf at age 31. At age 40 she was a celebrated rookie on the LPGA Tour. Before turning professional she was a two-time Michigan Women’s Amateur champion and qualified for seven USGA national championships. She won the Michigan Women’s Open in 2000 and twice lost in playoffs on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour. She coaches the boys and girls golf teams at Saline High School and has twice been named a state high school golf coach of the year.    LaFontaine, 73 and owner of Pine View Highlands Golf Course in Houghton Lake, retired in January after 37 years as executive director of the MTF where he administered $500,000 in annual revenue and product funds, helped to raise over $1.1 million annual donations of equipment, product and funds, oversaw $1.3 million in endowments and was instrumental in the creation of the world renown Hancock Turfgrass Research Center at Michigan State University. The MSU graduate has won multiple awards, and is a past winner of the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America Distinguished Service Award. The MGHOF is a heralded collection of portraits, plaques and memorabilia that now commemorates 123 members, including Walter Hagen, Chuck Kocsis, Horton Smith and more current notables Dave and Mike Hill, Dan Pohl, Meg Mallon and Kelly Robbins. The collection will soon be housed and displayed in the new Ken Janke Sr. Golf Learning Center that is under construction at Ferris State University’s Katke golf facility. The late Ken Janke Sr. was co-founder and is a member of the MGHOF. The MGHOF is administered by the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame Committee, which is funded through the non-profit Michigan Golf Foundation (501(c) (3) since 1996) and includes 18 members representing a cross-section of the state’s golf associations as well as golf media. The MGHOF committee conducts an annual election to recognize the achievements of competitive Michigan golfers, but also accomplishments of individuals who have contributed to the growth of the game. Find out more at MEDIA CONTACT: Greg Johnson, co-chairman MGHOF, 616-560-8995, PHOTO ATTACHED: The Class of 2018, from left Tom Harding, Gordon LaFontaine and Debbie Williams- Hoak. LaFontaine holds the Hall of Fame plaque of Bud Erickson.

Speech at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Ken Janke Sr. Golf Learning Center

This speech was given on April 28 by Terry Moore, co-chair of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Ken Janke Sr. Golf Learning Center—the new home of the MGHOF— at Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI.

Good morning, everyone! On behalf of my co-chair Greg Johnson and the 16 other Board members of the Michigan Golf Foundation, let me say this is a great day for Ferris State and for Michigan golf. Today is the result of a successful partnership between Ferris State and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame and with the generous support of many alumni, organizations and donors, especially lead donors like Ken & Kim Janke and Mike Bigford. As such, the HOF is closer to moving into its new home. For over 5 years, the plaques, portraits, and artifacts have been held in safekeeping here at Ferris State with only a few items on public display. With today’s groundbreaking, we’re taking the next steps in our path for opening the doors to the HOF. Greg and I along with our entire Board were overjoyed with the news of this groundbreaking. BUT the reality really hit us about moving into a new home | when we started getting sales calls from 2 Men and a Truck! As for why we’re so honored to be here today, let me quote three of our past chairs who have all given so much to our Board and to golf: Immediate past chair Fritz Balmer said, “What better place to exhibit the Hall of Fame than at Ferris State, the birthplace of the Professional Golf Management curriculum. Putting the students in touch with golf history and the people who made that history is a perfect fit.” Another past chair, dynamic golf leader and generous donor Bob McMasters wisely said, “Individuals may come and go but an institution like a university lasts forever. Ferris State has the resources to ensure a sustain- able future for the HALL OF FAME. And besides, it’s at a golf course with a state-of-the-art learning center. What can be any better than that?” Sara Wold, another energetic chair and major donor, said: “We are so excited to have a new home for the Hall of Fame. It’s important to preserve the legacy of women’s golf, and introduce the game to future women players as well. Ferris State is a great location.” At its core, the HOF is about recognizing and preserving the stories and the achievements of Michigan golf. With the new Ken Janke Senior Golf Learning Center, the Hall of Fame will celebrate the legacy of its notable champions and contributors. In remembering these stories, this slice of Pure Michigan,we hope students and visitors—golfers and non-golfers alike— will find a rich history, valuable lessons and perhaps even inspiration. At this time, let me express our gratitude to several key individuals and organizations: First, thank you to the Board of Trustees of FERRIS STATE and to President Eisler for their vision, their wholehearted support, and for their bulldog determination for this project. Thank you to the staff of the PGM program as well as the Advancement & Marketing team or all of their efforts. At the PGM program, we must mention Mark Wilson who years ago read a press release story by Greg Johson titled, “Michigan Golf Hall of Fame Seeking New Home” and then contacted us. We commend Mark, a HOF member, for being not only an astute reader of the Rules of Golf but also of urgent press releases! Thank you to the co-founders of the HOF in 1982, Stan Aldridge and Ken Janke Sr., who conceived and nurtured it and made it a lasting part of Michigan golf history. Thanks too to those charter committee members still on the Board today: Larry Adderly, Jack Berry and Jim Dewling. We’re indebted to them for their long and loyal service and counsel. A thank you to all 8 of our member organizations—as well as their Boards of Directors— for their unwavering support over many years. And a special mention to these lead donors: The Golf Association of Michigan, Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association, Michigan PGA, and the Michigan Women’s Golf Association. Finally let me share a few closing thoughts and words from Meg Mallon, who grew up in Michigan, and became an 18-time LPGA winner, Solheim Cup captain and a member of Michigan’s and the World Golf Hall of Fame. Meg said: “What separates the great players from the very good ones are their work ethic, their of love of the game and their passion for competing.” Meg also understood what legendary golfer Ben Hogan meant when he was once asked what was the secret of his golf swing. “It’s in the dirt,” he said, meaning the dirt of the practice range and all the time and sacrifice spent there to be a champion. Today at this Groundbreaking we’re inspired by so many champions and supporters of both Ferris State and the Mich. Golf Hall of Fame, who made this day possible by their work ethic, by their love of the game and for learning, and by their dedication and passion. Yes, the secret and the promise of this groundbreaking is “in the dirt” and so much more. Thank you. And see you at the Grand Opening! —Terry Moore